Pensioner sees care home fees double

The family of a pensioner are furious after her care home fees were more than doubled to a staggering £125,000 a year.

Pamela Watts, 76, is currently paying £3,543 a month out of her savings to live at a care home in Sandford Station Retirement Village in Somerset.

But her fees are now being increased to £10,355 per month, of which the Government contributes just £432.

The home, run by the St Monica Trust, says Mrs Watts’ fees have increased because of her complex and challenging needs.

She has been given until July to decide whether to pay the increased fees - or move out.

Her daughter Jacquie Heal, 44, said her mother will now have to sell her home in Bristol to meet the astronomical costs.

Mrs Heal, a housewife, is calling on the Government put a cap on fees at care homes, which are currently free to charge what they like.

She said: 'It seems as when you are a privately funded patient, care homes can charge what they like. There seems to be no regulatory body controlling the fees or putting a cap on them.

'These fees are extortionate - you could enjoy an all-year luxury cruise or pay three live-in carers a week for the same money.'

Mrs Watts suffers from lymphedema, a condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissue, and cannot walk.

She moved into Sherwood Lodge in December as she requires a specialist track hoist to move her around.

But her daughter says she is still able to carry out everyday tasks herself such as eating and drinking.

Mrs Heal added: 'Mum’s only problem is with her lymphedema which causes swollen legs and makes it impossible for her to walk.

'She is articulate and can feed herself, brush her hair and give herself a drink. I think it is outrageous that the fees have risen so much as mum’s needs have not changed.'

Mrs Heal, who lives in Cleeve, North Somerset, applied to the government for Continuing Healthcare Funding for help in paying the fees.

But the application was refused - as Mrs Watts’ has savings of more than £23,000 and therefore does not qualify for help.

Mrs Heal has now written to North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox and health secretary Andrew Lansley asking for support, as well as appealing to the St Monica Trust.

A spokeswoman for St Monica Trust said the price increase will only cover the actual cost Mrs Watts’ care - which is 91 additional staff hours every week, costing £1,365.

She said: 'The trust has been very concerned to provide a long-term care solution for Mrs Watts, despite her extremely complex care needs which has arisen as a consequence of various health conditions, weight and lack of mobility.

'The care requirements for Mrs Watts are considerably greater than for all other residents.

'She currently receives an additional 13 hours of dedicated care every day.

'The trust has been providing this additional care, without question, and at its own cost since early December, but we hope people understand that, as a not-for-profit organisation, we cannot continue to do this on an indefinite basis.'

But a spokesman for the National Pensioners Convention said the cost was “astronomical”.

He said: 'These are astronomical fees. The care home usually charges around £1,000 each week - so this is more than double the average cost.

'There is no cap on fees, no minimum or maximum that care homes have to adhere to. They can charge what they like and what they think they can get away with.

'It is worse than a postcode lottery, it is a home by home lottery with each charging something different.

'It is pretty despicable and an areas that desperately needs to be controlled. In a way it is exploiting an individual who simply cannot afford to sustain such a high cost.

'If she cannot pay, she will be forced to move out and find other care, something that places a great deal of stress and strain on a person.'

Sourced from This Is Money, 24th May 2012.